Book Review: Tamora Pierce’s The Will of the Empress

Posted October 17, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews, Middle-Grade readers, Young Adult readers

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Tamora Pierce’s The Will of the Empress

The Will of the Empress


Tamora Pierce

It is part of the , series and is a fantasy in eBook edition that was published by Scholastic on February 1, 2010 and has 555 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Alanna: The First Adventure, In the Hand of the Goddess, Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Lioness Rampant, Wild Magic, Trickster's Choice, Trickster's Queen, Wolf-Speaker, Emperor Mage, Realms of the Gods, First Test, Page, Squire, Lady Knight, Terrier, Bloodhound, Mastiff, Daja's Book, Sandry's Book, Tris's Book, Briar's Book, Magic Steps, Street Magic, Cold Fire, Shatterglass, Melting Stones, Battle Magic

First in The Circle Reforged subseries and tenth in the Emelan overall fantasy series for older middle-grade to young young adult readers due to the empress’ interest in men and Briar’s interest in women. No, there isn’t any sex, but this is the first time that “interest” has been this much.

READ Melting Stones before you read this one! Otherwise you’ll be as confused as I was when Briar keeps referring to Yanjing! If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Emelan Universe books on my website.

My Take

This is a sad one with the focus and story on all four of these sixteen-year-olds when they visit Sandry’s relative, the Empress of Namorn, while it is Sandry who has her life lesson to learn. Hers isn’t the only lesson, but it is the most important of the four while all of them will re-learn the bonds of friendship. That one’s experiences, however bad, will not drive one’s friends away.

Daja, Tris, and Briar have shut down their open minds to each other, to keep the others from knowing of the horrors they’ve done or experienced. It leaves Sandry feeling left out and alone. Angry. It will take The Will of the Empress to force Sandry to gain maturity and release her pride. And reforge this circle of friends.

“‘Did you know that the magical rune for discord is the combination of the rune for house and two runes for mage?’

The woman grinned. ‘I wonder what it would be for a house with three mages?’

‘Number 6 Cheeseman Street,’ murmured one of the other guards.”

Aww, I like that the duke sees past Tris’ temper to the person she truly is underneath. It’s a lesson the empress could use as she believes these four will be enticed into staying, that their desires are the same as her brown-nosing courtiers. Instead, she comes up against four independently minded people who think for themselves with their own ambitions — and they don’t involve bowing and scraping! And once you read of the empress’ style of ruling, you’ll completely understand why her courtiers suck up to her!

On the other hand, Berenene does have to maintain control of her nobles lest they rebel and drag her down, but geez, there has to be a better compromise. Certainly not the control she uses to pull Sandry to Namorn, and what she does to beggar Ambros. What a bitch.

“‘I think we’re probably supposed to be spies, too,’ said Caidlene … ‘Which is silly, because we’d have to be awake to be spies.'”

Oh, dear, seems Briar has an ulterior motive for wanting a companion in bed with him, and no, it’s not what you’re thinking. It’s very sad and has its roots in Melting Stones.

I love Sandry’s comment that Duke Vedris doesn’t need ceremony to have the respect of his people. Emelan doesn’t have an unspoken law as Namorn does, either. It goes against Sandry’s own feminism, and she’s furious that the empress would allow such a law to stand. Nor does it help that she learns too much of how marriage treats a woman in Namorn.

Hmm, I think I know what plans Pierce has for future storylines from the comment Briar makes about Zhegorz’s predicament. I also love those nobles’ worries when they see the knives Briar is packing, lol.

It’s a hard choice for Sandry, one that affects her pride — and she irritated the heck out of me for not seeing how selfish she was being, how irrational, and it makes a great story, teaching each of the four about true friendship, about learning the other person’s side of the story, about doing the right thing.

The Story

It’s a shock to realize the independent-at-sixteen rule is sacrosanct. All four children must move out and find their own place to live. It’s a devastating moment for Daja, and not too pleasant for Briar or Tris.

It’s a state of affairs that doesn’t change even as Sandry is forced to travel to Namorn to deal with its empress and Sandry’s vast lands within the Empire’s borders. It’s an overdue visit fraught with emotion…and danger.

Sandry’s uncle promises guards to accompany her, but those “guards” have become unknown to her, for they’ve grown up and grown apart. Sandry isn’t sure they’ll ever find their old connection again – or if she even wants them to.

The Characters

Lady Sandrilene “Sandry” fa Toren, a thread mage and clehame in Namorn, able to do anything with thread or fabrics, is turning sixteen. Ambros fer Landreg is a cousin who is overseeing her estates in Namorn. Saghada Ealaga fa Landreg is Ambros’ wife, and they have four children. Clehame Amiliane was Sandry’s frivolous mother.

Daja Kisubo is a fire mage; Trisana Chandler is a weather mage who can scry the winds; Chime is Tris’ mage-made glass dragon; and, Briar Moss is a plant mage who carries his own companion, an 152-year-old shakkan wherever he goes. All four have their mage’s medallions, which means they are considered adults in terms of using their magic.

Sandry’s great-uncle, Duke Vedris, rules Emelan. Gospard is his older son; Franzen is the younger. Baron Erdogun works with her uncle.

Namorn is…

…another country where Tris met Keth, a Namornese glassblower, in Shatterglass, 4, and Daja and Frostpine stayed with some of his friends in Kugisko in Namorn in Cold Fire, 3.

Berenene dor Ocmore is the empress of Namorn, a famous gardener, and related to Sandry. Her heir is the Princess Maedryan who is not at court. Bidisa Rizuka “Rizu” fa Dalach is her Mistress of the Wardrobe. Quenaill Shieldsman and Viymese Ishabel Ladyhammer are her mages. Saghad Jakuben “Jak” fer Pennum, who has an estate next to Sandry’s, and Finlach “Fin” fer Hurich are the empress’ choices for a possible husband for Sandry. Pershan “Shan” fer Roth is the Master of the Hunt and the queen’s current lover. Caidlene fa Sarajane is a lady-in-waiting and a cousin to Sandry by marriage. Olfeon is the Master of the Armory and intends to teach Briar a lesson.

Fin’s uncle, Notalos fer Hurich, is the head of the Mages’ Society for Namorn. Bidis Dymytur fer Holm and his uncle, Saghad Yeskoy fer Haugh, are more like bandits than the nobles they purport to be.

Sandry’s holdings include…
…a townhouse in Dancruan, the capital city of Namorn, and an estate at Landreg. In town, Wenoura is the cook and Gudruny’s cousin. At Landreg, Gudruny Iarun begs Sandry’s aid to protect her from her abusive husband, Halmar, a miller.

Zhegorz is the crazy man who helped Daja empty the burning hospital in Cold Fire. It’s a craziness the quartet can understand. Maghen is a little girl in Pofkim. Third Caravan Saralan is traveling from Emelan to Namorn.

Winding Circle Temple in Emelan is…
…both a school and a temple dedicated to magic. Dedicate Initiate Frostpine, a blacksmith and fire mage, is Daja’s mentor. Lark and Rosethorn live in Discipline Cottage and are both foster-mothers and teachers for the four. Tris is handing Glaki, the young mage, and Little Bear, the quartet’s dog, over to Lark (Shatterglass, 4). Briar Moss hands over his own protégé, Evvy, a stone mage. Luvo is a stone being and Evvy’s friend from Melting Stones. Comas is one of the new students Lark took in while Tris, Daja, and Briar were traveling. Niklaren Goldeye is a famous and highly respected mage and the teacher of all four.

A clehame is a countess in Namorn; a bidisa is a baroness. Academic mages learn rites and spells; ambient mages draw power from their surroundings. Mimanders are Trader mages.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a gridded bubble encasing the city of Dancruan at the top of a mesa while all around it, the orange, gold, and yellow grasses stand so erect with the wavering sky in its sickly yellow that it reminds me of flames as if the entire cover were on fire. The eyes in the sky, I suspect, are Tris’, our weather mage, with the fiery pull of her anger.

The title is a challenge for our four, as no one goes against The Will of the Empress, no one.